Oftentimes, couples write the first version of their will when they are starting a family and then revise it a decade or two later as the children grow. However, it’s common for husbands to take the lead in these revisions. Despite the good intentions, this scenario leaves many wives with a minimal understanding of the financial realities they could face upon the death of a spouse.
Start by Understanding Your Estate Plan and Will
It is essential for every woman to understand what assets and liabilities she will have after her spouse dies. Many women never have had to deal with the family’s finances before, and the thought of it can cause great anxiety. Being proactive about understanding your financial reality not only allows you to plan and prepare, but also reduces the risk of being blindsided while dealing with a painful grieving process.
Begin working with your spouse, attorney, and financial advisor to get a grasp of the plan that is already in place, and ask what will happen if your spouse dies or becomes mentally incapacitated. These are two very different scenarios, and your questions may uncover gaps in the current plan. Also ask about these essential topics:
- What does the Last Will & Testament state? Who is the executor?
- What assets make up your probate estate?
- Do you have other assets that will pass to beneficiaries outside of probate?
- Do you have a trust? What does it provide? Who is the trustee?
- Do you each have a financial power of attorney?
- Do you each have an advance directive or a power of attorney for health care?
- Are there life insurance policies, and are the beneficiary designations up to date?
- Are all of your documents updated with your current wishes and situation?
- Should you have money in your own name as well as in joint bank accounts?
- How is real property titled?
- What happens to retirement assets?
- If you have been remarried, how does the estate plan impact you versus your stepchildren?
- Who makes up your team to help you through the process?
Once you understand the plan and make any necessary adjustments, it’s important to include your beneficiaries in the discussion. Although these discussions can be uncomfortable, they play a key role in avoiding will disputes down the road. By ensuring that your beneficiaries understand your wishes, they will be more likely to support one another in the future instead of battling against each other.
At Gaslowitz Frankel, we understand the importance of having everyone involved on the same page before a dispute arises. If you are or may become involved in a dispute over your will, trust, or estate, our firm can provide candid advice and reliable legal guidance. Schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.